American U18 star in the spotlight.
Football has always been something of a family affair for budding star Lynden Gooch.
The American is in the first year of his scholarship on Wearside after making the long journey from Santa Cruz, California, to join the Black Cats.
Gooch, an attack-minded midfielder, was born in the US and holds a British passport.
My brother was my role model football-wise and I just wanted to do what he was doing
- Lynden Gooch
His English father was a big influence but brother Anthony was the model for young Lynden’s footballing ambitions.
The older Gooch has followed a different path to his sibling and is currently playing for San Diego State University, where he is studying kinesiology.
“I started playing basically because of my brother and followed in his footsteps,” Gooch explained when met up with safc.com at Sunderland’s Academy of Light training ground.
“He was my role model football-wise and I just wanted to do what he was doing. My dad, who’s from England, always coached us.
“I played for my local club, the Santa Cruz Breakers, and for the state team in California.
“I probably realized at the age of about 10 that I wanted to play football professionally.
“The US held an Olympic development programme and I did that, went through everything and got into the national team from there.”
Having gained a taste for the game, Gooch made rapid progress and came to Sunderland’s attention thanks to a chance trip to the UK aged 10.
A hat-trick in a friendly impressed Academy staff and kicked off a long relationship which has blossomed into a full-time scholarship on Wearside.
“I was playing with a centre of excellence in my local area and we headed over to England on a trip which Sunderland were involved with,” he explained.
“I scored a hat-trick in my first game and everything went from there.
“It started off with me coming over twice a year for two weeks at a time and playing and training so they could monitor me and watch my progress.”
The American made the decision to leave home and follow his dream after being offered scholarship terms, arriving at the Academy of Light in July.
Gooch has made a good start to playing football full-time and he dreams of following in the footsteps of the likes of Clint Dempsey by playing in the Barclays Premier League.
“Getting into the swing of things has been fine,” he added. “I was already familiar with the club and knew everyone which made things easier.
“I was playing well right off the bat and managed to score a few goals too, which helped me settle.
“I’ve found training full-time to be a little bit hard as I was only training three times a week back home.
“It didn’t take long to get used to it though and I would much rather be playing football full-time than part-time!”
He added: “We’ve done well in some games but lately we’ve been making silly mistakes which have been letting us down.
“I still think we’re playing well and doing well and we still have two games in hand, so we can climb the league.”
As well as his club career, things are blossoming on the international front too following an approach from the Republic of Ireland.
Gooch, who qualifies through his Irish mother, will fly out to join the under-18 squad this weekend ahead of two friendlies against Switzerland next week.
Having swapped the US for Europe to ply his footballing trade, Gooch has seen the continent’s obsession with the game first hand but believes football is also carving out a significant niche in his homeland.
“Football is getting bigger, definitely,” he explained.
“In Santa Cruz we are close to the San Jose Earthquakes and they are a club who are definitely expanding.
“The ex-Premier League players coming over is definitely getting people interested and the game is growing with kids, for sure.
“I think eventually football will be contending with the other major North American sports.”